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You can't turn off Cortana in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Ian Paul | July 27, 2016
...but you can lessen her awareness.

Next, open Cortana on the taskbar and then click on the settings cog in the lower-right corner. On Cortana’s settings screen, disable every slider that can be set to Off, such as search history and device history. That helps prevent some data usage and tracking, but Cortana will still be working.

To wipe Cortana's memory of you, click on Change what Cortana knows about me in the cloud, which is at the very top of the settings panel. On the next screen, scroll down to the bottom and click Clear. This orders Microsoft to delete any information it has saved about you via Cortana, including personal interests, browsing history, and so on. If you're going to use Cortana but feel uneasy about its data collection you should clear this option periodically.

You can even get rid of Cortana's presence entirely: right-click on the Cortana search box, and select "Hidden". Doing so, however, apparently makes the Cortana box disappear without any obvious way of getting her back. (Note that if you leave "Hey Cortana" turned on, the Cortana box will re-appear when you say those words.)

After that’s done you can also go to Bing Maps to edit your saved places (if you have any) as well as Bing’s search history page to clear information stored about your search habits.

Use an alternative

If you’re still unsatisfied after you’ve crippled as much of Cortana as possible, consider ditching her completely and going with a third-party system search utility instead. If you aren’t using Cortana's web-connected features all you really need is file and folder search, anyway.

One of our favorite third-party search tools is Everything. This wonderful donationware is small, simple, easy to use, and (most importantly) fast. You can also pin Everything to your taskbar to make searching as easy as Microsoft’s built-in solution.

Of course, another alternative is to dump Windows 10 altogether and switch to Linux. That’s certainly a valid alternative—as commenters on this article will no doubt mention before long. PCWorld's guide to the best Linux distros for beginners and Windows XP refugees can help get you up to speed if you decide to opt for that drastic solution.


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